The UK Atomic Energy Authority has opened a new intermediate level waste store at its Harwell atomic research facility, now known as the Harwell International Business Centre. Costing some $80 million, the ILW store and associated facilities are designed to handle all Harwell’s ILW into the next century.

According to Roy Nelson, the UKAEA’s director of Dounreay who initiated the project, “the new Vault Store is the cornerstone of a major programme to retrieve and repackage Harwell’s stocks of ILW for its continued safe storage on site while its long term future is decided.” The project includes the refurbishment of Harwell’s original waste stores for the retrieval and repacking of their wastes for storage in the new Vault Store. A 100 tonne retrieval machine will be used to recover the wastes from these stores.

An advanced assay system, designed by Harwell Instruments, now owned by Hewlett Packard, will measure the activity and fissile content of waste before inspection and repackaging.

The Vault Store, measuring 20 m by 56 m, is built of reinforced concrete walls, with walls and roof of over a metre thickness. The Store will take up to one hundred 500-litre drums each year. The waste mainly comes from the research and development work carried out at Harwell and from decommissioning activities.

Commissioning trials were carried out by AEA Technology.